This Mourning (and Song of the Day)

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In my daily Frederick Buechner a few days ago, I read about the time he received his first book deal, only to immediately hear about a classmate’s dissimilar misfortune. And as he walked away, his joy could not fully withstand the grief of his friend. “There can be no real joy for anybody until there is joy finally for us all,” he wrote.

And isn’t that the way it is with everything in our broken world? One man’s fortune is another man’s burden. The same hill means one man’s climb and another’s coasting descent.

Sometimes in the effort to encourage the pursuit of simplicity, proponents point to the joys of letting go of consumer values, to the shame of living for cheap, monetary thrills, to the true cost of our endless appetites. I believe in that joy, and in that shame, but I forget sometimes, that while there can be great reward for making sacrificial changes, those changes very often feel like loss. Change is never without a feeling of loss, even happy change. A wedding is a great beginning, full of hope and the promise of a timeless friendship, but it is also an end. Isn’t it a common story for a best friend to spend much of the wedding grieving over the forever-changed nature of their friendship? Or a child is born and amidst the parents’ joy, they are quickly adjusting to the sudden demands of their new charge, likely without the indulgence of previous comforts like sleeping in or a simple cup of coffee. When we leave one thing behind in order to gain something better, moving on into joy is part of the story, but the other part is loss.

Whether it’s moving across the country, signing a book deal, or giving up Netflix (I know . . . it’s a doozy), we must give ourselves the freedom to grieve the fear or loss we feel. Because regardless of how good the change may be, the pain it brings along the way is real. I love Eric Peters’ song that I posted for the new year. “So much to be thankful, so much to be forgotten. Gonna cry when I need it, smile when I need it, laugh when I need it. Good-bye denial, good-bye. Good-bye.”

Pursuing a more simple, focused life is a common response to the rampant consumerism and disposability of our time, and I believe an appropriate one. And when I am visited by the longing for what I have left behind, I must see it, name it, and then remember that I have not so much given up what I had gained as begun to hope for something different.

To pursue the life-giving habits that depend less on accumulation, and more on expression, enrichment, service, is for many of us a hoping for the day when there is joy without sadness, for us all.


10 Comments

  1. LauraP

    “when I am visited by the longing for what I have left behind, I must see it, name it, and then remember that I have not so much given up what I had gained as begun to hope for something different.” That line is an encouragement to me to not long for what was, but instead to take a leap of faith — to dare to place hope in what is coming. Great post, Kat. So glad I met you and Jaron at the moot.

    This is also one of my favorite EP tunes. It came to me in a season when I needed nothing more than to say “ha ha” to the old year. It will always hold a special place in my heart, as will the event where I first heard it.

  2. Janna Barber

    Yay! for another girl writer in the RR! I too like the bit about naming the loss. It can seem like such a small thing, but naming is the first step, taking someone in a new direction, away from denial and toward healing. And of course, I love the song too. Write on, Katherine!

  3. Jess

    Too good, too true. I often think that denial is strength, only to rediscover (and rediscover and rediscover) that really isn’t the case. I will get angry at myself for mourning something that I think is silly, but it always comes back to letting myself feel what I truly feel enables me to move on. Another interesting, confusing part of life.

  4. BuckBuck the Nordic Wonderduck

    Oh, this is convicting. And the timing is perfect.

    We made some major life changes out of faith this past year, and finances have been tight ever since. My husband gets paid this week on Thursday, and our grocery budget was shot days ago.

    On the drive home, I was tempted to get all sour about stretching the food we have a few more days. We passed a billboard that said, “1 out of 6 people in America struggle with hunger,” and I’m ashamed to admit it, but I caught myself grumbling privately, “YEAH! Like ME!”

    That was totally bogus, BTW. Because although we have been stretched at times, we’ve never been in need.

    Anyway, this was a great reminder about the temptation to look back and long for Egypt. And this sentence was wind in my sails: “… when I am visited by the longing for what I have left behind, I must see it, name it, and then remember that I have not so much given up what I had gained as begun to hope for something different.”

    So, thanks a ton!

  5. Rachel

    Wow. My commitment for 2011 is to simplify. Not just with material “stuff”, but in purpose and in heart. One of the initial things this has brought up for me has been to come out of denial about my baggage. This may be my theme song. 🙂 Thanks for this post.

  6. Jen

    I second Janna…. Huzzah for another Rabbit girl! Welcome, Katherine!

    And a beautiful first post here. Thanks for addressing the loss and grief that goes with change, even the ones for the better. I think we’re reading the same daily Buechner (Listening to Your Life?) because I remember that story, and it struck me too. Also enjoying reading through your blog! 🙂

  7. Katherine

    Thanks for the comments and warm welcomes, ladies! Happy to be here with you.

    LauraP – Thank you so much for reminding me of that song this year.

    BBtNWD – I have totally had those moments this year, too, and sympathize with you. It can be really tough to recognize that some “needs” are luxuries. And vice versa.

    Melissa – I didn’t realize that was going on for you all – really hope we get to visit soon.

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